Nutcracker, Part 1

It’s just over two months since Dance Fredericton’s 10th Nutcracker, so I thought I’d write and reminisce about it, and show you a few pictures from behind the illustrious red curtain of the Playhouse.

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To be honest, I’ve been reluctant to write this post. I was looking through our hundreds of Nutcracker pictures last week, selecting the best ones for these next few posts, and I was getting homesick again. Any DF dancer misses Nutcracker after it’s done, but I still miss it in Montreal. To be fair, I have performed in it since its first show as the Nutcracker Suite in 2006, which was so lucky, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. But, you know, I still miss it! And I miss my girls, being in the studio rehearsing, and working with a group of talented dancers to show our audience something beautiful and bigger than ourselves.

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Performing Waltz of the Flowers at the Fredericton Delta in 2015

Anyway, I’ll put away my moping for now, put on some happy music (how about the Nutcracker score?!), and tell you about a very beautiful show. I’m going to talk about what happens before the show in this post, along with some of my thoughts of course, and the next two will cover the showtimes. I’ve divided them this way to make each post a little shorter, and so that I could show you some of the pictures I wanted to.

For those who don’t know, it all starts in August. We have an eight-day intensive at the studio, where we have ballet class in the morning, and in the afternoons, we go over the Nutcracker pieces. This past year, we had David Moroni teach us our morning classes, and Janie Richard taught us new choreography for the Arabian dance and Waltz of the Flowers, which was amazing! We’ve had almost the same Arabian choreography for the past 8 years I would say, and since 2006, we’ve had two different Waltzes. Having a new one, more challenging, but also very uplifting and beautiful, lasting the whole 5 and half minutes, was perfect for our 10th anniversary. Along with the guidance, teaching, and patience of our many instructors, who made sure our feet were all pointing the same direction, or eyes all looked at the same spot, and our fingers were place just so, we were ready.

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Warming up (photo by Lévis Thériault)

After that, the excitement continues every Saturday from September to the end of November. It’s not always happy and fun though, because there are times when we’re all tired, sometimes frustrated, short-tempered, worried, sick, and/or sad. Every other year, I willingly felt all those feelings, watched them pass, and saw how they gave way to inevitable giddiness for the show. But this year, knowing it would be my last full show, I didn’t dwell on negative feelings, and just enjoyed every practice.

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My 2015 Nutcracker lineup

Usually before the rehearsals start, we have a full weekend in early September to do our auditions. These are always stressful times, and I really feel for the dancers who are in a large group. For example, there aren’t as many senior dancers in the school, and we were pretty scarce for seniors some years, which meant that a handful of dancers had to perform in almost every piece. And some years, there was a large group of senior dancers, which were a mix of high school and middle school dancers.

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Arabian rehearsal from side stage

Getting our roles can be tough. I don’t mean so much for the senior dancers, but when it comes to younger dancers, those who are not yet at the senior level but have been in the Nutcracker for a few years, it can be difficult to be in one or two dances over the span of a weekend. Sometimes it’s a dance they didn’t really want to be in, but I was always amazed at how everyone supported each other, and every dancer took their parts in stride. Our instructors always tell us to be the very best version of that part we can be, even if we didn’t want that part.

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L to R: Sophie in Arabian and me in Spanish, me and Julia in Snow, me almost in Snow, and me as a parent in the part scene.

I really like that message because I take it and try to apply it to my everyday life in Montreal. I want to be a writer, and eventually make a lot of my money from my books – that’s my Dewdrop (the Waltz of the Flowers queen), if you will, that’s my main goal. I know that I’m not there right now, and I won’t be for a few more years – I’m just a little girl in the party scene, lost in the crinolines and expensive fabrics of the mothers’ dresses.  (I am loving these Nutcracker metaphors, if you can’t already tell!) I’m in a new job, and though it’s not exactly what I wanted, I don’t mind. It’s a job, it allows me to save up some money, I learn new things, it gives my weekends and evenings to write and do what I want to do, but most importantly, I strive to be the best customer service agent at a book-selling company that I can be.

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5 minutes to the top of the show (photo by Lévis Thériault)

Alright, back to Nutcracker! About a week before the show, I get pretty nervous. I don’t know how my body knows, but I wake up every morning with butterflies in my stomach. Next Saturday, I think, we won’t be in the studio, but on the stage!

Then finally, we are there. The stage is empty, and for a moment, the wings (those big black curtains on the sides of the stage) are up, and there are Nutcracker props everywhere: a staircase, sleigh, cannon, trees, candies, gingerbread house, wreaths, chairs, tables, sewing kits, and medicine boxes.

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Our dressing rooms are cleaned and all our costumes are neatly organized on hangers (thank you volunteers!), and we have the evening before the show to go through both performances and rehearse anything else that needs help.

We dance, we see how much time between dances we have to change, we break for supper, then we go back to dancing until bedtime.

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This will FOREVER be my favourite backstage picture! Bonus point if you can spot Sophie… (Photo by Lévis Thériault)

Part 2 will be up tomorrow…

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